Hundreds of students protest underfunding of education in Prague center

The secondary school students say the government overlooks issues affecting young people and instead offers cuts. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 19.05.2023 10:14:00 (updated on 19.05.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

About 100 secondary school students gathered at Prague's náměstí Jana Palacha to protest against the government’s draft budget consolidation package and the government's failure to address issues that affect young people, such as underfunding of education and housing affordability. The demonstration was organized by the group You Can't Cut the Future (Budoucnost neškrtneš).

"The government has not been interested in our future for a long time, ignoring the topics that worry us and using us only as an argument to justify its own policies," the students said in a statement.

They said the government is failing to address the often poor situation of students, the growing disparities between Prague and the regions, the underfunding of education, the climate and energy crisis, the segregation of Roma pupils, or equality for LGBTQ+ people.

"The government promises reforms but offers blunt cuts. If the government does not open up these issues too, we want to have nothing to do with it," the protesters said, adding that the government should address issues that young people currently face.

The demonstrating students carried banners with slogans such as "Stop the Cuts" and “I prefer school to wine,” referring to a tax increase on alcoholic beverages except for wine.

Students have to make school a secondary priority

Adéla Kundrátová, the head of the Czech Secondary Students’ Union (ČSU) and one of the protest organizers, told news server iDnes that a survey by the OECD showed Czechia was among the worst countries when it came to supporting students.

Students are also crushed by inflation, expensive food, rent, and dormitory fees, which makes student life very unaffordable, she added. The cost of rent forces students to “put school on the back burner,” she said. The lack of capacity in secondary schools also means that many intelligent young people miss out on the opportunity for education, which will affect them for the rest of their lives.

The government presented the austerity package on May 11. Its 58 measures aim to reduce the state budget deficit by CZK 94 billion next year and another CZK 53.4 billion in 2025, according to Prime Minister Petr Fiala.

The government plans to increase the corporate tax, excise duties on tobacco and alcohol, and gambling and property taxes. It wants to reintroduce sickness insurance for employees and raise the levies on entrepreneurs. The main aim is to reduce the public deficit through austerity, especially by cutting state subsidies.

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